There is a current wave of student occupations across London. KCL, LSE, UAL, Goldsmiths have all been targeted, and I’m sure more are brewing. The LSE occupation was the first (that I noticed anyway) and they are calling for a “Free University of London” and aiming to create an “open, creative and liberated space, where all are free to participate in the imagining of a new directly democratic, non-hierarchical and universally accessible education”. There has been plenty of coverage of these occupations in the relevant media outlets, not least UAL’s rather terse response in particular. Whatever the politics of these occupations and your views on the provisioning of higher education in this country (I happen to agree with their position), what I think is equally as important about these ‘events’ more broadly is that it is students as a cohort that are leading these protests.
At the same time that the nation tuned into the first TV debate of the 2015 general election, the Aylesbury Estate occupation reportedly ended. One event saw a bunch of lowlifes bickering about how to run a doomed institution, the other? Well….
The intensification of technology is a process that we can no longer ignore. Stephen Hawking recently said Artificial Intelligence could end mankind, televisions are spying on us, Hollywood blockbusters warn of dystopic futures. These ‘big’ ideas about technology are critical to the debate about what it means to be human and have been raging for sometime, but on a more societal, everyday level, our human interactions are evermore being replaced by technological ones. Buying food from a machine, talking to computers on the phone, automated passport controls, searching for friends and soul mates online, sharing a joke with your smart phone’s operating system, checking into hotels via a smart phone – there is a layer of technology that is replacing our everyday connections with the people around us, a layer that is becoming increasingly invisible but all-encompassing.
In light of this, I’m embarking upon quite an ambitious project. It’s a bit experimental, but something I think hugely worthwhile. Essentially, I aim to conduct three social scientific experiments or ‘challenges’ that will test just how far I can go by living solely via technological interfaces. I want to make a documentary film (and write an accompanying book) that explores how technology is making our economic and social interactions more efficient, but also how they are making us interact less with humans for our everyday needs. This has all manner of societal implications about sociality, family life, loneliness, technological politics, workers rights and a host of many other crucial debates.
So I have created a Kickstarter page to try and raise the funds needed to conduct the project. Please consider contributing, because I believe that such a project has the potential to have a vast impact academically, politically and culturally. Please feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or tweet me for more information.
With all dust settling over the REF2014 and the chin-stroking in full force, much of the critique of the practice seems to be focused on the vacuity of the entire exercise, and how multiple universities have spun the results to make themselves as good as they possibly can be. Vacuous, overly-bureaucratic, pointless, list-mania, these were some of the words labelled at the exercise that I saw in the aftermath. Today in the Guardian, Professor Scott claims that “everyone was a winner – if you believe the spin put on the results“, suggesting that university PR departments were able to massage the statistics to highlight just how ‘world-leading’ they were. But is this spin all bad? Perhaps not…
Last May, I gave a keynote talk at a CreativeWorks London event, called ‘Joining the Dots’. I was asked to talk about a paper I co-authored (with Tim Vorley and Richard Courtney) that focuses on the networking paradigm, but to a more ‘business-friendly’ environment. While I have recently been working more on creativity that is subversive in an urban context, I think there is some conceptual (and critical) common ground with some of my earlier work on networks that this talk showcases. Anyway, the talk is in the video below (please excuse my appearance back then as I had recently been in a cycling accident that was completely my own fault…)
P.S. Incidentally, this is my 100th post on this blog. Not sure what that says about my productivity, but I’m sure it’s not good….
One cannot have failed to notice the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall over the weekend. Coupled with Remembrance Sunday, it has created a milieu of memorialisation over the weekend that has invoked process of grief, global strife, hegemonic power, activism & resistance, personal loss and spirituality. There has been a lot of pontification and media chin-stroking about the geopolitical wrangling and consequences of the fall of the Wall in the lead up to the anniversary, but what has always been present in the urban studies literature is the way in which the Wall acts very much within the urban geography of Berlin. I was lucky enough to visit Berlin last month for a very interesting and enlightening Workshop on Controversies of the Creative City, and given the content of my talk (which was, in a nutshell, a 20-min dash through the themes of my book) the inventible question I always seem to be asked is ‘what is the alternative’? If neoliberal capitalism is unjust, damaging and polarising, just what is the answer?** Given that we were in the city that symbolically saw the collapse of one viable ‘alternative’ it seemed like an apt arena in which to have the debate. With the workshop discussions pinging around my thoughts, I took it upon myself to practice what I so often champion which is the act of drifting à la The Situationists, something which can (can) begin to inculcate a more creative city. But of course, this is neigh-on impossible in the contemporary Creative City, so using the old line of the Wall (which is of course now, a recognised tourist route – Berliner Mauerweg, the Berlin Wall Trail), I walked from the SouthEast of the city centre to the North, keeping as close to the line as I could. This practice has been done elsewhere far more vividly that I ever could by Will Self (the flâneur of our time), and my photography skills have a lot to be desired (to say the least – click on the photos to see a larger version). But what follows is a photographic essay which speaks to the changing urban condition in Berlin from a city divided along geopolitical and revanchist lines, but which now has perhaps lost the former in favour of a more global city-inculcated version of the latter. Continue reading
The last of these XX on YY posts (as I’ve now finished the book!) is Badiou on Fidelity. It is linked to his notion of the Event, and his idea of ethics which are for me, extremely useful way of theoretically configuring subversion and how to engage in Deleuzian lines of flight. The call to ‘keep going’ is more than simply to defy the pressures of the system (as Marge is attempting to do above), but to continually resist becoming-subject, and the ‘opinions’ and ‘interests’ that constantly attempt to manipulate it into simulacra. Fidelity to the truth-event takes an extraordinary amount of effort, but who ever said flying was easy?
“Under pressure from the demands of interest – or, on the contrary, because of different new demands within the subjective continuation of fidelity – there is a breakdown of the fiction I use to maintain, as an image of myself, the confusion between my ordinary interests and disinterested-interest, between human animal and subject, between mortal and immortal. And at this point, I am confronted with a pure choice between the ‘Keep going!’ proposed by the ethic of this truth, and the logic of the ‘perseverance in being’ of the mere mortal that I am. A crisis of fidelity is always what puts to the test, following the collapse of an image, the sole maxim of consistency (and thus ethics): ‘Keep going!’ Keep going when you have lost the thread, when you no longer feel ‘caught up’ in the process, when the event itself has become obscure, when its name is lost or when it seems that it may have named a mistake, if not simulacrum.
“For the well-known existence of simulacra is a powerful stimulus to the crystallisation of crises. Opinion tell me… that my fidelity may well be terror exerted against myself and that the fidelity to which I am faithful looks very much like – too much like – this or that certified Evil. It is always a possibility, since the formal characteristics of this Evil (as simulacrum) are exactly those of a truth.
“What I am then exposed to is the temptation to betray a truth. Betrayal is not mere renunciation. Unfortunately, one cannot simply ‘renounce’ a truth. The denial of the Immortal in myself is something quite different from an abandonment, a cessation: I must always convince myself that the Immortal in question never existed, and thus rally to opinion’s perception of this point – opinion, whose whole purpose, in the service of interests, is precisely this negation. For the immortal, if I recognise it’s existence, calls on me to continue; it has the eternal power of the truths that induce it. Consequently, I must betray the becoming-subject in myself, I must become the enemy of that truth whose subject the some-one’ that I am (accompanied, perhaps, by others) composed”.
(Badiou, 2001: 79-80, original emphasis)